Residential Life’s RA Only Model Will Be Tested by Influx of New Students
It has been several years since Residential Life made changes to the Residential Assistant position. As a student that has only interacted with RAs in the new model, and with the massive increase in new students coming to the University at Albany every year, I thought that it would be salient to talk about how this structure is lacking.
One of the core changes has been expanding the RA role to include more administrative work, segmenting the responsibilities of the single student. For those that don’t know this is a newer change, as there was, at one time, multiple types of students that ResLife employed, some to work the Quad office as Student Assistants, and some to live in the dorms as RAs.
This has undoubtedly been a cost-saving method for ResLife, as there no longer is a need to bring on additional students to do deskwork. From the resident perspective, it has meant that RAs have less time to interact informally and are being asked to perform duties that should be split among several people. Ask pretty much any student if they ever signed off on attending an “event” (one that only existed on paper), just because the RA needed to fill the quota and didn’t have the time.
While many of us introverts don’t mind an overbearing RA, let’s not forget that not having an accessible RA, especially for those in their first year, can be isolating and detrimental. Those hours away from the dorm take away from time that could be spent with helping new students on the boring stuff, like where their classes are, and how to use the bus system. But it can also help residents adjust to these cold concrete walls. And with more students coming to the university, RAs will be asked to stretch their resources even thinner to compensate.
It is not like the old model didn’t work. The separation of administrative tasks and resident focused RAs is still the standard at many schools, including SUNY Buffalo. Regardless, the decision has been made, and it will take a lot of movement in the opposite direction to get that segmentation back. This could be something like a sudden statewide movement to unionize, which would be hard since RAs are not paid in cash.
Nevertheless, the current utilization of ResLife resources leaves a lot to be desired, a quite a bit of room for revaluation and improvement. In the long run, changing the system could improve much more than just dorm life.